Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The First Raid & Skirmish at Mountain Home, Part 3

Note: I will be posting an Ozark Civil War series on this post for the next several weeks.  These articles can also be found on the Baxter Bulletin every Monday.  Some articles in the Bulletin have been edited down to fit the word count requirements for the newspaper.  These articles will be posted here every Tuesday; they are posted here in their entirety with pictures & links.
Enjoy your Ozarks' History.

Before reading Part 3, make sure to read Part 1 & 2.

A tinder ear and wanting eye was always turned toward the Military Road. It was the 16th of October, 1862, and many of Marion County villages & families were anticipating the arrival of their husbands and sons. Some of the families located on Rapp’s Barrens had become familiar names to the area, such as: Casey, Crawford, Dodd, Foster, Goforth, Goodall, Howard, Huston, Russell, Talbolt/Talbert, Trammel, and Walker. These families still lived on this open prairie that once flourished with corn, cotton, and tobacco. Now, they still had key resources that would make them a prime target for a Union raid. They would ultimately arrive at the Casey house, which also doubled as the local post office the past four years. 
Old Military Road on Hwy. 126 South going toward Buford, Arkansas.
The peace of this well knitted community was quickly interrupted as the 14th Missouri Calvary & Missouri State Militia from Douglas & Ozark Counties bore down in plundering resources needful for their unit. Hastily, the Union Calvary made a raid through Mountain Home and the surrounding barren. The booty was easily taken with only women, children, and old men to plead and protest. Additionally, the majority of men who could protect them, with the weapons and gunpowder, were still three days away. 

Once the materials were stolen, the final inventory tallied 50 heads of horses, 5 wagons and teams, and a considerable amount of other property useful to the army. Since their livestock, implements, quilts, and rations were stolen, the families on the prairie would find daily survival a constant struggle.

In making the raid throughout the small village, Maj. Wilber approached the Casey house to see a horse drawn hack (buggy) driven by a Confederate officer who was transporting an ailing soldier; it was Maj. J. W. Methvin. He had made the arduous journey from Pocahontas in only six days lying in the bed of the hack. It was determined that Methvin had contracted a severe case of pneumonia. He was within a day’s journey from being reunited in the safe haven of his family and comfortable quarters. Methvin was captured and soon realized his circumstances and timing of a reunion with his wife and children started growing dark and doubtful.
After the setting of the sun, about 8:00 p.m., Maj. Wilber ordered a retreat back to Missouri via the Military Road, and the hoof beats of the cavalry pounded away from the small dogtrot home of Col. Casey. The retreat went smoothly and the cavalry made their way to another nearby prairie known as Tucker Flats or Tucker Barrens. Today this area is known as the Tucker Cemetery Road. 
In Maj. Wilber’s report, he stated, “I placed our train of horses, mules, and wagons in the advance, with sufficient guard for its protection, and kept my main force between it and the advancing enemy. The most perfect order was maintained. Every man was at his post, and everything was in readiness to give the enemy the warmest reception possible.” 

Tucker Cemetery Road on Hwy. 62 between Mountain Home & Gassville, Arkansas.
As the unit was approaching the last section of road on Tucker Flats, it became relevant that Col. Shaler was still a few days behind. Therefore, the decision was made to bivouac (camp) for the night, and make their final retreat by day light. About a half mile before the junction of the Old Salt Road, Hwy. 126, the soldiers discovered a place to camp. The camp was positioned on the prairie grassland and followed the gentle slope northwards a few hundred yards along a fresh spring of water. The tall tufts of Bluestem and Indian grass made excellent bedding for the soldiers and nourishing provender for all of the 275 horses, of which 50 were stolen. They most likely believed they were far enough below the grade and view of the road to not been seen. For safety’s sake, a rear guard, comprised of 25 men, was quickly dispensed under the guidance of Lt. Reuben Mooney, Company D, 14th Regiment.  
Overview of Tucker Prairie with arrow pointing to the sight of the skirmish.
In the meantime, the alarm went out through Mountain Home and the prairie about the Union raid, and some of furloughed men from the Arkansas 27th found themselves mustering their forces. It was now a desperate hunt for the militia that stripped Mountain Home. About 40 Confederate soldiers made their way to Tucker Flats on the Military Road. As they creped upon the 225 Union soldiers, they made their plans to separate the Yankee unit from their rear guard. Under the cover of night, the small band of Marion County men were endeavoring to rescue Maj. Methvin and repossess the precious fall harvest, livestock, and implements. 

As the Rebel soldiers advanced across the prairie, they hid themselves in the thickets of crimson sumac and tall clusters of Turkey-foot grass. About 2 o’clock in the morning, October 17th, a Rebel yell was unleashed and the rear guard was attacked by a small band of brave southern soldiers. As the hammers slammed down into the percussion caps of their rifled muskets, the soft lead Minie balls whizzed throughout the Union camp. The Rebels gained a position between the rear guard and the main Union force. The camp was quickly roused from its slumber and immediately came to arms. The fight had begun, and the cooling spring nearby Old Military Road would soon flow with crimson. 
Tucker Prairie, sight of the skirmish.

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